Detroit rapper Eminem is a multi-Grammy-award-winning emcee and one of the most successful hip-hop artists ever. The lyricist (real name Marshall Mathers) burst onto the scene in 1999 with his legendary Slim Shady LP. However, although many know why the act created his alter-ego, few know how the ‘8 Mile’ rapper came up with the name itself.
During the mid-1990s, while Mathers was working on his debut album, Infinite, he was recording and performing under the stage name Eminem, which he had derived from his initials “M and M.” However, he wanted more. With an urge to develop a ruthless alter-ego, Mathers began finding its identity. Still, the Detroit emcee could not conjure a name despite his hard work. However, one day, the lyricist found the perfect nickname for his alter-ego in a strange place at a peculiar time.
In 1996, with the help of Detroit-based production house Web Entertainment, Mathers released his debut album, Infinite. However, following the album’s disastrous rollout and egregious critical reception, Eminem realised he was holding back and needed a vehicle to say what he truly thought and felt. This was when Mathers realised he required an alter-ego. Eminem has always been a complex and controversial artist. Over the years, many saddening stories have come to light concerning the emcee’s upbringing and life before fame, whether domestic violence, poverty or other; the culmination came to fans in the form of Slim Shady. Although Mathers’ alter-ego is a controversial one, to say the least, it is an integral part of Eminem as an artist and a culturally significant figure.
It was Mathers’ Slim Shady EP that an Interscope employee who attended the Rap Olympics picked up. This project led to the emcee signing with Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. However, it was Slim Shady who perked the ears of Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre. In the leadup to the release of Eminem’s 2009 album, Relapse, Eminem sat down for an interview with Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1.
Among other things, Mathers elaborated on the creation of Slim Shady and detailed how the name came to him, explaining, “This is not a lie, I was sitting on the toilet, and a lot of good material came out of that… This name pops into my head. I was kind of skinny, and I thought maybe it should be something slim. And then, for some reason, Slim Shady popped into my mind, and I just thought of 20 things to rhyme with it I just thought, ‘This is it’. I went back in the room and just kept writing.”
Dr Dre loved Mathers’ alter-ego so much that the record executive was insistent that Eminem introduce himself as Slim Shady first. Released in 1999, the Slim Shady LP exploded into the mainstream and became certified triple platinum by the end of the year. From here, Mathers became unstoppable and, for a decade, was one of hip hop’s best-selling artists. You can listen to the Detroit rapper’s interview with Zane Lowe in the video below.